Houses are often like time capsules. Sealed within their layers of wallpaper and paint, their fixtures and carpentry, their bricks and plaster are clues to our history and narratives of years gone-by. So when the owner of the grand Uptown home photographed on these pages took on the task of renewing the property, she did her best to ensure that the renovation would literally contain an accurate portrayal of the times. “When we were renovating, we tore down the walls to the original floor joists and found newspapers from 1894,” she says. “So inside the walls of the new addition, we tucked current publications like City Business, Louisiana Life, New Orleans Magazine and the Times-Picayune. The next time someone renovates, they’ll find those.” The anecdote seems especially fitting given that the gracious, civic-minded woman recounting it was at one time tied to the local publishing industry.
The charming exterior of the late 19th-century home.
Key to the project’s satisfying outcome was the homeowner’s steady patience and commitment to quality. The house was purchased in 1989, and the next 10 years were spent raising two children at the house and slowly acquiring antiques before she decided to remodel. By the time the planning stages began in 1999, the homeowner was well versed in how the family utilized the house and had a clear vision of what she wanted its new incarnation to be: a house elegant enough for frequent entertaining, but also comfortable enough for day to day family life. That required, among other things, adding more living space, a bathroom for the backyard pool, side entrances, and a second driveway.
In the dining room, a 19th-century French Louis XVI dining table from Uptowner Antiques is combined with late 18th-century Italian chairs found through M. Carbine Renovations. Artist Bekye Fargason painted the walls with a tone on tone shadow stripe.
Armed with that knowledge, she turned to M. Carbine Restorations to renew the bones of the house and to her longtime friend, designer Kathy Slater of Kathy Slater Interiors, to help upgrade the furniture and fabrics. Carbine designed a roomy new addition across the rear of the house, consisting of a broad, inviting porch cooled with ceiling fans, an easily accessible mudroom, pool bathroom, pantry, kitchen, a breakfast room and den. Modifications were made to the existing floor plan so the old and new spaces flowed together naturally. Carbine further blurred the line between where old and new meet by using timeless architectural elements such as French doors, salvaged cypress columns, recycled heart of pine floors and traditional crown molding. Upstairs, he expanded the master suite by converting the area occupied by a guest room into a new master bath and several walk-in closets. The owner then worked with Slater, through whom she had purchased antiques for 15 years, to find a combination of pieces that suited the classic update and would eventually transition to a smaller home, now that she was approaching the empty nest years. Friends for 20 years, the two shared a philosophy of buying fewer, better antiques rather than mediocre ones that in the long run hold neither their value nor their appeal. “She was so easy to work with,” says Slater of her friend and client. “She knew what she wanted and was never wishy washy. When the right thing struck, she would say ‘go for it.’”
Designer Kathy Slater (seated in the study) worked with the homeowner, who was a longtime friend, to upgrade fabrics and furnishings during the renovation. “We were going for relaxed elegance with a contemporary twist,” says Slater. “I think we achieved that.”
“I lugged many things home, but if it wasn’t something I loved, I’d just leave the spot vacant a little longer,” adds the homeowner, who also was adamant about buying all of the antiques and art from local dealers, many of whom are friends.
“I don’t mind a blank wall. A blank wall is easy on the eyes.”
Of the six fireplaces that existed in the house prior to the renovation, none could be restored to working order, so the den was designed around a new fireplace with an old mantel from Mac Maison.The windows provide a view of the pool and backyard, and French doors open up to the patio on the left.
The owner was equally sure-footed when it came to revamping the spacious pool area, a job jointly carried out by Carbine and Michael McClung of Four Seasons Landscape. Because the addition overlooks the pool—and the homeowner entertains frequently—she wanted the outdoor space to function as an extension of the interior. Carbine enhanced it by decking it with brick and adding a trio of water spouts that arc gracefully over the pool and fill the air with the tranquil sounds of running water. McClung, who’s known for manicured gardens mixing European and Southern influences, redesigned the green spaces to be in sync with the pool and with the architecture, scale and traditional tone of the house. “We use the outdoors a lot,” says the homeowner, attesting to the success of the approach.
Shades of terra cotta and soft green were used to color the kitchen, which overlooks the porch and pool. The same recycled, heart pine used for the floors were stained with a light, blonde color for the top of the island.
“People enjoy the sound of the water and the pool, so most of my parties end up on the back porch.” Yet she’s also quick to point out that there’s not a single room in the house that isn’t used since the renovation was completed or where guests aren’t comfortable making themselves at home. “I always wanted a pretty house, but I wanted to be able to use it day in and day out for all kinds of entertaining: family, civic, corporate, neighborhood, school, etcetera, from fancy formal champagne events to keg beer!” she says. “If I’m going to have a big house, I want to use it.”
M. Carbine Renovations used salvaged cypress columns to add architectural interest to the casement opening between the breakfast room and den and had several antique doors turned into a pair of custom corner cabinets for the breakfast room. Kathy Slater found the tole plaques—originally used as quivers or arrow holders—at a Paris flea market.
M. Carbine Renovations designed the powder room vanity and topped it with the same rojo alaconte marble used for the kitchen counters. The antique botanicals were found through Kathy Slater and framed at Briles-Bergeral Custom Framing.
The homeowner and Kathy Slater worked the color scheme around the warm shades found in the abstract painting above the mantel and the traditional toile selected for the pair of Louis XVI chairs. Most of the art in the house came from Guthrie Contemporary.
Terra cotta pots filled with boxwoods, cascading ivy and petunias add color to the pool’s corners and accent its symmetry. The owner’s golden retriever, Emma, enjoys swimming in the pool.